The following letter was sent on March 30, 2012, to city of Atlanta residents by Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr.
Dear APS students, parents, employees, and supporters,
There are occasional challenges in life that simply cannot be avoided and must be faced for the benefit of all concerned. This is the situation with the current redistricting effort, as we attempt to make needed changes in order for all students to academically benefit from a more equitable distribution of available educational resources.
Our proposal calls for the closure of 13 under-enrolled schools and the creation of 10 clean feeder patterns or clusters, the latter establishing a direct, un-splintered flow of students from elementary to middle to high school. The current system involves under-enrolled schools – some currently at only a third capacity – and splintered feeder patterns of various groups of students coming out of a single elementary school and feeding into multiple middle schools, depending on where the students reside. It also involves various groups of students matriculating out of a single middle school and feeding into several high schools, again depending on where the students live. This situation is chaotic, dysfunctional and wasteful, and it simply cannot continue. It also does nothing to build parent commitment to a given school.
While it is difficult to propose the closing of any school, it is a necessary step to ensuring that all of our schools are enrolled to minimum capacities so that essential educational resources can be equitably distributed. As it is now, under-enrolled schools are not eligible for the resources that schools that are at or near full capacity receive. Many do not warrant an assistant principal, full-time counselors or paraprofessional support, because they lack a sufficient number of students to receive these resources. Because state funding formulas do not favor small classes, we are currently employing over 700 more professionals than are under state formulas.
By comparison, the Henry County district has about 40,000 students compared with 47,000 at APS, yet the system contains about half as many schools as APS. It is apparent, by this comparison alone, that we simply cannot continue to staff, heat, cool, clean and maintain schools that are nowhere near capacity. It not only wastes resources; it deprives students attending under-enrolled schools of the resources they need for academic success.
We have worked hard to make the redistricting process as open and transparent as possible with focus groups, demographic surveys, three sets of regional public meetings and dozens of hearings over the past month at the schools potentially impacted by our redistricting proposal. Throughout this lengthy process, public input was received and incorporated into subsequent plans. We received people’s comments and suggestions and modified our plans and proposals accordingly.
As we hopefully near the end of this process and draw closer to approval of a redistricting plan by the Atlanta Board of Education and eventual implementation, it is my sincere hope that the community remains actively engaged with us in successfully making this transition to a more efficient and educationally valuable end result. My focus has always been on continuous improvement of the education delivered to students every day. This is the sole rationale behind the redistricting initiative. It wasn’t to save money, reduce staff or close older buildings. None of these were the driving factors in our redistricting proposal. My intent all along has been to reconfigure the system through consolidations and realignment of feeder patterns to put the district in the position to provide a quality education to all of our students, regardless of where they live and go to school.
Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr.